FeminismPop Culture

50 Shades of Fail

50 Shades of Grey is once again rearing it’s damn head again and holy crap haven’t we heard, I dare say, too much about this series? Well no, as the newly released trailer is blinking across the internet with tag lines such as ‘tantalisingly sexy‘ and ‘hold on to your hand cuffs!’. It seems despite the chorus of angry voices that have been debunking this story and highlighting the disturbing themes that make it up, it’s still being sold as a ~sexy romance~,  to be released on valentine’s day no less.

So I figured now would be a good time to talk about how this story is in no way the ideal relationship that is going to be marketed to us . I’m going to read 50 shades of grey and give you chapter by chapter reviews of this “Romantic, liberating (*snorts*) and totally addictive” book.

Are we sitting comfortably? Let us begin.

Chapter 1: Is it just me or are you an asshole? Idk you’re hot though so…

We begin with Anastasia Steele, our protagonist, brushing her hair and saying ‘damn’ a lot. Within the first few paragraphs we get a description of her (hail to convenient mirror scenes). Ana is pale, has large blue eyes and brown hair, ugly right? Well, despite her just awful appearance, our already suffering heroine has to do an inconvenient favour for her sick friend. Helping friends out while they’re ill is just terrible. Especially when that friend is “gorgeous” despite being bed ridden. It’s a hard life Ana.

The favour in question entails interviewing, you guessed it, Christian Grey. Despite having no background knowledge of the mysterious “enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc” Ana is sent off to interview him reluctantly, while constantly maintaining she has exams to cram for, work to go to and that she just isn’t the kind of girl cut out for this. I’m honestly mystified as to why Kate couldn’t have someone who actually worked on the student paper to go and do this interview, but then we would all miss out on this steamy ‘romance’ and what a shame that would be.

Ana panics a little more and despite being annoyed with Kate maintains she is her dearest friend, who is “articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, [and] beautiful”. Wow, now I’m a little in love with Kate. After this quick establishment of characters and conflict, Ana hops into Kate’s Mercedes to meet Mr Grey. I’m assuming Kate is from a rich family to be a student driving a Mercedes, or perhaps E.L. James fails to present student life alongside BDSM relationships.

After “floor[ing] the pedal to the metal.” Ana arrives at Grey’s office building which can only be described as an embodiment of western masculinity. The towering monstrosity of steel and glass, which apparently only employs “very attractive, groomed, blonde young women” may as well be a steel penis surrounded by topless models. I wonder what James is suggesting with this imagery? It boggles the mind. Ana meets a few more of the blonde employees remarking that “It’s like Stepford here” (if that isn’t a big red flag then I don’t know what is).

Whilst being led through the pseudo penis building Ana’s train of thought reveals low self esteem, paranoia that the multitude of blonde employees are laughing at her and a history of social exclusion.  She further laments that she “prefer[s] [her] own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library.” Do I hear a chorus of ‘not like other girls’ singing from a cloud bathed in heavenly light? Date a girl who reads they say (or spank in this case), why not date a girl and not a trite metaphor?

Anywho, Ana is left to sit for a bit until finally she is directed to the door behind which Christian Grey lurks. Of course she falls head first through it, landing on her hands and knees… I could say something about this, but I’m sure your sparkling imaginations can come up with some scathing remark. So finally we meet Mr Grey, who we have no knowledge of up until this point due to Ana’s woeful unpreparedness for the interview. I’m sure you’re all tip toeing on the precipice in an-tici-pation of Mr Tall Dark and Spanky. I wouldn’t be too excited.

Grey is as boring as his namesake. Shockingly he’s “very attractive” with pretty hair and intense eyes, I’m weak at the knees already. (Perhaps I’m being too cruel, after all personality is far more important than looks.) Before Ana actually talks to the guy she’s already melted into a puddle of heart thumping lust, as “an odd exhilarating shiver runs through [her]” the moment they touch hands (*coughs* Twilight? *coughs* Twilight.) Ana’s reaction to this attractive man is met with shock and disapproval by her own subconscious, which is bullshit. Even if you keep dropping things and blushing Ana there’s no need to be “disturbed” by your own sexual attraction, accept it, try not to drop stuff, get on with the interview. Of course things couldn’t go that smoothly.

All hopes for an interesting character are lost as soon as the interview begins (after some weird posturing by Grey and Ana blushing whilst constantly dropping things). Grey is bland, he repetitively babbles on (or should that be, huskily babbles on?) about his need for control, his apparent lack of interest outside of his business empire and need to exert his man power. Alongside this, he’s a huge asshole, purposely intimidating Ana who is already clearly uncomfortable.

Ana rightly labels him a “control freak” and an “arrogant” dick butt, but as all we weak women know, when men are so very hot we’re hopeless to remember their faults. Grey continues to throw Ana into a hormonal frenzy by stroking his lower lip, I’m in a tizzy just thinking about it. What’s even worse are the way his “eyes blaze” at her, nothing quite like looking into The Eye of Sauron x2, *sighs* ~dreamy~. I think James may be laying the foreshadowing down a little strong with all this “born to control things” talk, I wonder what she could be alluding to? I wonder why this is being portrayed as ‘sexy’ and not creepy?

A rare picture of Christian Grey

A rare picture of Christian Grey

Ana repeatedly asks “why does he make me so uncomfortable?”, I think the answers obvious don’t you? Especially when it’s revealed he wants to “possess things”, women included. Grey isn’t interested in a consensual relationship, in a healthy loving sex life, he’s obsessed with owning things. He lives by the quote “A man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.”. Let me tell you boys, girls and non binaries, people aren’t possessions nor are you entitled to them.

The awkward interview continues with Grey exerting his ‘control’ by waving his metaphorical penis in the air and hooting like an enraged, but devastatingly handsome gorilla. Poor Ana doesn’t know whether to squirm with pleasure or discomfort as Grey dodges rather than answers her questions. However, his best answer by far comes after the question “Are you gay, Mr Grey?” (it even rhymes, nifty) where upon he “inhales sharply” (the no homo is strong in this one). Despite his apparent displeasure at his heterosexuality being questioned and Ana’s consequent embarrassment, at the sound of him saying her name Ana is blushing, again.

Maybe it’s the blushing, maybe it’s the fumbling or maybe it’s because Grey has mystic mind reading powers alongside the ability to render women incompetent. Whatever the reason, Ana has been rumbled as an imposter, meaning she isn’t on the student newspaper which leads Grey to decide she is now required to answer his questions. I don’t really understand why Ana goes along with this, as Grey’s demeanour is as warm as an arctic winter and about as pleasant.

Their interview looks to be mercifully ending as one of his Stepford secretaries interrupts, but mercy isn’t in Grey’s vocabulary (*cries*). To the amazement of Andrea (Miss Stepford) and the despair of me, he requests that his next meeting be cancelled. The strange ‘reverse’ interview resumes whereby Grey quizzes Ana on her future plans, even insinuating a possible job opportunity at his company. Ana, as typical for someone of low self esteem and confidence, finds this offer ‘confounding’, (I prefer the phrase hella super creepy) stating she wouldn’t “fit in” at his company. Grey refuses to take no for an answer (or at least an implied no, do I see a reoccurring theme here?) and offers to show Ana around, but alas Ana’s poor ‘female’ hormones are all in a tizzy again. Those strange muscles are a’ clenching and her heart is a’ beating in the face of his “intense gaze”.

Finally Ana gets her shit together and insists she has to leave, but Grey doesn’t let her leave without exercising his alpha male control muscles (oh thank goodness I was worried for a second there). Instead he ominously states “Until we meet again, Miss Steele.” which Ana construes as a possible threat, honestly is there truer romance than threatening statements from strange men you’ve only just met? I dream of them every night. At last, Ana leaves, albeit not without Grey following her and making excuses to touch her unnecessarily under the guise of ‘gentlemanly’ behaviour (behaviour it is clear he has never exhibited before as evidenced by his employees shocked reactions).

I can hear your pained shrieks of “Manatee is it over? Please say it’s over!” as a faint buzzing sound compared to my own groans of agony, but yes, we are nearly there. Ana has made it to the elevator, she has made it inside despite Greys lurking presence and “distracting” lips, eyes, hair and body. They share a farewell which consists of saying each other’s name???  (I don’t even have a comment I’m just bewildered at this point.) Until, “mercifully, the doors close.”

Thank fuck for doors.

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Floatingmanatee also known as Alice, is a certified Zoologist living in Britain and has an unhealthy love of weird creatures. She's bisexual, a lover of books, TV, film and anything else that tells a story. Generally she's either angry or sad or both about the state of the world, but watching youtube videos of cute animals makes her feel better.

Profile pic art: https://www.etsy.com/uk/people/MATTY8080?ref=owner_image_profile_leftnav

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